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I was discussing the recent health care bill (now signed into law) with betacandy over at her blog, and she invited me to share my thoughts. I've actually been meaning to do this for the better part of a year, but have been extraordinarily lazy about updating my LJ. But a good prod was all I needed. :)

Much of the following rant was both informed and prompted by articles by Maggie Mahar (you can read some of her pieces here and here) and by John Silviera (you can read his rant here).

How the fuck to solve the medical crisis in America.

First, we need to identify the problems with medical care in America. Obama and the dems have identified ONE problem with health care, and that is that too many Americans don't have access to it. They have attempted to address this with the current law, and to some extent have probably succeeded. However, I rank this law a failure for the following reasons:

1.) It addresses a symptom, not an underlying problem.
2.) It does so by radically affecting every American, some much more than others.
3.) It is tremendously expensive. I've heard numerous claims about it actually reducing the deficit, blah blah, but that is a shell game. That's like me buying a new TV on my Mastercard (which already has a high balance), then robbing a liquor store to pay down some of the debt and claiming that the new TV purchase was what helped reduce it.

No, the real problem is not health insurance. At all. The insurance model as a whole is a pretty crappy way of achieving the underlying goal, which is to get Americans health care. And the real reason so many do without it is because it is expensive. America spends more (WAY more) per capita on health care than any other country. THAT is the elephant in the room we need to address.

Why is it so expensive? Lots of reasons....I'll list some here.

1.) Too few doctors to treat too many patients. You'd think we'd have tons of doctors, right? It's a lucrative profession...we all know doctors are rich. And it's a morally wealth profession, too...doctors save lives, they're universally respected, right? Well, not quite.

First of all, there aren't as many doctors as there are people who want to be doctors...and who could actually qualify to be doctors. This is because the AMA limits the number of slots available in medical schools, and thus, who can learn to be a doctor. Even if you have the grades, drive, and so forth, you might never get a chance to be a doctor. In economic terms, we call this an artificial limitation on supply...and it has a corresponding effect on demand.

Second, many people who could be good doctors don't even apply...because a medical degree is enormously expensive, a huge investment of time and money.

Third, of those who DO become doctors, too many become specialists and not enough become primary care physicians. Because specialists make the big bucks, and if you're going to work your ass off and get a ton of debt, you want the big money, right?

Finally, not only does the AMA artificially limit the supply of doctors, it eliminates competition for doctors through overly restrictive licensing. This prevents alternative care providers (like chiropractors, midwives, and others) from competing...and thereby, from actually helping patients and easing some of the workload.

So...how to fix this? Well, it starts be re-examining the status quo, after realizing that the current system is bound to produce expensive health care.

Mahar, in talking about medical schools, misses an important point. She seems to think that a deeper, broader applicant pool would help the AMA pick only "the best and brightest" to become each years new batch of doctors. But I say...why not let them ALL be doctors, if they can do the work? Why limit how many people can train, be it by limiting slots at schools or (for that matter) not having enough schools? I would rather have 200 competent doctors than 100 superlative doctors...not least because, the more doctors you have, the more the burden is eased for doctors. Many doctors in America are horrendously overworked, and that contributes to medical complications and mistakes more (IMO) than having someone who is perhaps not quite as brilliant.

If there's a guy out there who can learn to remove my appendix without killing me, I want him practicing...if for no other reason than that he does a job that a brilliant doctor doesn't have to do...that guy can go spend his time curing cancer and shit.

Along with getting more doctors into circulation, we need to be opening up the medical field to NON-doctor medical professionals. More Nurse Practicioners, more midwives, more ancupuncturists for God's sake. Overlicensing is complete bullshit, and while it is claimed to be for "consumer protection", what it most often does is serve as a form of industry protection, and an artifical barrier to entry into the market. Perhaps you haven't heard the bullshit story about how a successful hair-braiding company was shut down by the cosmetologist lobby (if not, you should), but there is no reason that, for instance, the AMA should be allowed to require a master's degree to deliver babies in some places. Look, I'm all for competent doctors, but in a lot of cases delivering a baby is not exactly rocket science. People do it in their own homes in a kiddy pool, with no assistance at all (I'm not kidding).

Now, clearly some deliveries are easier or harder than others; my wife, for instance, had all 4 of ours by c-section, and that's clearly not something I'm going to try at home. But come on...telling midwives they're not competent to deliver babies is just bullshit.

2.) Medical Malpractice. I'm actually going to skip the rant on this one, I'm sure most of you have heard it before. Long story short...our horrorshow of a legal system ruins everything. I do not have a quick fix for this problem, but there needs to be one.

In the end, the only solution to the health care crisis is to fix the root causes of overexpensive healthcare. Finding a way to pay for overexpensive health care for everyone is a stopgap at best, and not likely to work very well...because despite what some democrats like to believe, you cannot simply pull money out of your asshole. It has to come from somewhere...which means that at the end of the day, people are still overpaying for a broken system.

We cannot plug this dike, okay? We need to build a new fucking dike before this one breaks and floods the lowlands.

Now...along with lowering the actual costs, if we want to continue the insurance model (and I'm sure many do)...we need a public option.

I'm sorry to my conservative brethren who decry this as "socialized medicine"; history has shown us that for-profit health insurance companies are simply NOT going to help a lot of people who desperately need care. If the choice is "give them something" or "leave them with nothing", I think the former is a gimme.

Now here come the conservatives to tell me how a public health care plan will destroy free market medicine and insurance. And my response is: Bullshit. What are you right-wingers afraid of?

"The government doesn't need to profit, so they'll run private insurers out of business!" But WAIT...doesn't that conflict with your OTHER favorite claim...
"Government care is always cruddy and rationed and it will suck!"

So let me get this straight...it will suck...and private insurers can't compete with suck? If that's the case, I don't want them around.

I will be frank: if the government option can provide care just as good as private insurers, at a lower cost...what the fuck do we want private insurers around for? The whole point of private insurers is that they can do a BETTER job than the government, but they want to turn a buck so it costs the user more. And that's FINE.
What are conservatives so afraid of? That public health care might *gasp* actually WORK?

I am no fan of big government, okay? And I will freely state that any public option needs to be as cost-effective as possible (no bloated waste or massive deficits) and as competetition friendly as possible (not heavy-handed government monopoly throwing up roadblocks to the private sector through legislation). But for God's sake, let them try. It's seriously that bad, okay? Big government is an idiot asshole a lot of times, but big business is a heartless greedy asshole, and right now that's worse. When a government solution is the lesser of two evils, you are in dire fucking straits.

Now if this is going to work, the liberals out there are going to need to choke something down too: the public option does NOT need to be perfect, does NOT need to be 100% free, and does NOT need to cover everything. I want it to make primary care affordable for lower to middle-class people. I would like the premiums to be income-based, so that anyone can afford it regardless of income level, but where people are paying what they can afford. I want it to provide good care for most things, but not heroic efforts or necessarily "top line" or "cutting edge" treatments. I do want anyone to be able to get it, regardless of medical history. And yes, this means that rich people can afford to use private care or insurance, and they probably will. That's GOOD, IMO...it leaves more resources in the public system for people who need it.

Now here come the bleeding hearts to yell at me about "tiered care". Yes, yes it is. So what? EVERYTHING is tiered in this country. We have tiered food (food banks and shitty McDonalds vs. filet mignon), we have tiered transportation (buses and beaters and coach vs. limousines and cadillacs and chartered jets), we have tiered self-defense (cheap hi-point automatics vs. custom-built Kimber 1911A1s), hell, we even have tiered police services (911 vs. private bodyguards and security firms). I don't really have a problem with tiering. You cannot have a free and capitalist society (which I want) without rich people being able to afford more than poor people. That's what being rich means. The only thing that SHOULDN'T be tiered in this country is the damn legal and political system, and frankly that's something not enough people are fighting for.

This may sound harsh, but in the words of Bricktop: "If I throw a dog a bone, I don't wanna fucking know if it tastes good". Yes, you may not be getting quite the same level of care as a millionaire. It's STILL better than the care you WEREN'T getting before! Something IS better than nothing, especially if you're getting it on the cheap. And I'm very sorry: we cannot afford to give everyone in the country cadillacs. And we can't afford to give everyone first-tier medical care.

That doesn't mean we need to give poor people ghetto care. It should still be good, solid, quality care. But we can have it be the "Wal-Mart" version. Generic medicines. Cheaper buildings, furniture, supplies. Poorer quality food (though with hospital food, I think we're already there). And...you'll probably need to make do with competent health care professionals who are not necessarily "best in their field" or expert specialists.

Does this mean that using public health care will be less likely to save your life if you have a serious illness? Sadly, yes. Again: that is already the situation, and not just with health care. Being rich insulates you against many of the problems that come with poverty, and health care is just one example. In the words of another dude "that's why it's called poor and not awesome". In a perfect world, the poor would have everything just as good as the rich (for that matter, there wouldn't be any poor). This is NOT a perfect world, and trying to devise a health care system for a perfect world is a waste of time and money.

So that's how I feel about the current fix. In some ways it does too much, and in other ways it doesn't do enough...but most importantly, it doesn't do the right stuff. At all. When all four of the Goodenbery brothers (two conservative, two liberal, all different) can agree that this was a bad bill...it was a bad bill.


I've been meaning to update for a while (I have a mostly written post I've been sitting on for seriously 2 months), but I haven't found the time. But I just saw this on Mighty God King and had to spread the word. If any of the folks from Hathor see this, please pass it along.

New Orleans law enforcement is charging prostitutes as sex offenders. Among other things, this means they are being charged as felons; they are being forced to register and declare to any neighborhoods where they live that they are sex offenders. If convicted 3 times they could get 20 to life. For prostitution. I am appalled.

Look, there are legitimate stances both for and against legalized prostitution, and I've heard most of them (most of the people I've seen on Hathor seem to be anti, whereas Renegade Evolution--who I hear is going by a different handle these days--is very pro. I'm mixed, personally, but generally come down on the libertarian-pro side). And if you're rational and consistent, I can appreciate your stance, no matter which side you're on.

But this is just bullshit. If you're against prostitution, it should at least be because you feel it degrades women and you want to HELP women. This is punishing people who are already in need of help, for doing nothing more (in my opinion) than exercising the right to control their own body and profit by it. This is nothing but cruel, malicious abuse of power.

The sad thing is, I haven't the faintest idea of what I can do to help (aside from speaking out and working the political system as a citizen the best I can). The worst thing about so many of the problems of the world is our feeling of utter helplessness to stop them.

So, had a baby and all...

Early yesterday (around 7-ish?), Casey delivered (via c-section) our 4th child, a lovely 7 lb. 13 oz. baby girl, who we named Marianne Faye. She had a nice head of dark hair, and shows all signs of being a quiet, peaceful baby (which we are very grateful for).

Casey is doing fairly well; more pain, she says, then with previous c-sections (not during, but after). There was a minor complication that I'll let her decide if she wants to talk about, but nothing dangerous or life-threatening. And this will be our last...surgery made sure of that.

I'll post pics soon, though honestly, all newborns look pretty much alike to me.

Anyway, thought I'd share.

This is why we can't have nice things

Okay, I am officially pissed off at drug dealers.

It seems like they cause all sorts of problems in my life...and not the kind you would expect. I am not bothered by drug dealers in the sense that they hang out in front of my house with skeezy people, or that they try to peddle crack to my children. Both of those things would, naturally, bother me...but no. They upset my life in odd ways.

Drug dealers are largely (though not totally...we have to shake a finger at the terrorists, too) responsible for why you go through so many security hassles at the airport. While the terrorism scare has ratcheted up security in recent days, we've all become used to the fact that airports go through you bags and X-ray you and all sorts of funky stuff, because these measures have been in place for a long time...to attempt to stop drug mules. Thanks to drug dealers, I get hassled at the airport.

Drug dealers are also why I suffer from severe colds. I used to be able to buy Advil Cold & Sinus, which was kick-ASS at taking care of my colds, because of a nifty ingredient called pseudoephedrine. Unfortunately, hillbillies like to use this chemical to manufacture crank (aka crystal meth), so now Advil doesn't even MAKE their good stuff anymore! You can still buy pseudoephedrine-based medicines, but they're behind the counter and there's paperwork involved and (this may be my imagination) they don't seem to work as well. Thanks to drug dealers, I can't buy the medicine I want.

And now, I find out a new one. I was recently returning home from a day in Anchorage, and I wanted some popcorn chicken. Casey doesn't like eating at KFC, so I thought it was a good opportunity to drop in and enjoy a rare treat. So I pull up to the KFC drive-through in Eagle River, and it's not until I'm right by their window that I see the sign that says they've closed down. So I'm a little sad and a little pissed off, and I go home.

Yesterday I find out that the REASON they shut down was because the cops SHUT them down. This is because they were selling more than chicken. In a little ring that went all the way up to the franchise owner, our local KFC was dealing dope. Yes. Seriously. So: thanks to drug dealers, I can't buy a box of popcorn chicken in my home town, but have to drive a half-hour in to Anchorage.

Now...part of this is just me griping, because I like to gripe. Another part is to point out some of the weirder side of life. But I also have a libertarian ulterior motive...part of this is to showcase the stupidity of the War on Drugs. We lost, okay? The government needs to wave the white flag and admit that we cannot save the dope fiends from themselves, and we should just stop fucking trying. Because all they are REALLY doing is a.) fucking up the lives of NON-drug users (note examples above), and b.) wasting a bargeload of cash in doing so. And maybe even c.) eroding all of our civil liberties...because let's face it; part of the reason many police forces are run like paramilitary outfits (rather than something more along the lines of "Andy Griffith" or "Cagney & Lacey") and for things like asset forfeiture (which I have raging wrath against, as most of you probably know) is because of this insistence that we must wipe the scourge of drugs from our shore.

I'm sorry...after several decades and umpteen million dollars, our shores are more drug-riddled than ever. So I'm calling that one a colossal waste of time, money, and freedom.

So...is the real reason we can't have nice things because of drug dealers? Or stupid governments?

You decide.

I'm Angry About The Angry Whopper

What the hell, Burger King? You have an awesome, delicious sandwitch and now you're getting rid of it?

For those who may not have had one, an Angry Whopper is like the regular kind, but with delicious sauteed onions and a spicy "angry" sauce (you can also get it with jalapenos, but I am not fond of jalapenos; to each his own). It is roughly 75-80% more delicious than a regular Whopper, which is in itself no slouch of a burger (it puts anything McDonalds has in the shade, certainly...well, except maybe their new Angus burgers, but those are hella expensive).

What is it with fast food joints ditching good burgers that people like to eat? Carl's Jr. got rid of their Teriyaki Pineapple burger, and I almost wept. That is like the best burger ever (thankfully they brought it back). I guess I can hope Burger King comes to their frigging senses and brings back the Angry Whopper.

In the meantime, if you are with me, you should tell every Burger King you go into what completely crap policy it is to ditch good sandwitches. If they want to ditch something, ditch that shitty sourdough burger...who eats that?

I'm putting you on notice, Burger King. You're acting like Republicans. Being better than the Democrats is NOT a major selling point, and being better than McDonalds is not going to win you any points. So shape up.
I was going to post a reply to Jen (betacandy) in the last post, but it was so long and involved I decided to make it a separate post. It started with the housing market and drifted into free markets and capitalism, and as a fiscal conservative I thought I should make some stuff clear.

I like capitalism. But I don't worship it.
I do worship liberty, and I have a very intimate relationship with the US Constitution, and those things primarily inform my conservatism/libertarianism. But unlike a lot of conservatives and libertarians, I do not have some sort of idealized view of capitalism, where it is the magic bullet that will solve all our problems. Pure capitalists like Ayn Rand actually give me hives.
So let's discuss capitalism, warts and all.

What Capitalism Does GreatCollapse )

Where Capitalism SucksCollapse )
Sorry, this is a tad dated...but I thought it worth mentioning anyway.

This is just sad. And bullshit. How the fuck does selling properties to real estate speculators do anything to revitalize neighborhoods that are dying? They're going to take them and make them over and overprice them to try score a killing, like real estate assholes everywhere, and nobody is going to fucking buy them. I'll laugh a little when the speculators lose their shirts, but it will be bitter laughter, because at the end of the day Detroit will still be dead.

And maybe it should die. I'm not suggesting keeping it on life support or anything. But if you have a chance to shoot it some whole blood (read: people who actually want to buy homes there and live in them), why the fuck should you let greedy assholes sabotage that?

This is representative of two facts, one of which is unpalatable to liberals, and one to conservatives:

1.) Government intervention almost always has this kind of problem...as P.J. O'Rourke said, the law of unintended consequences is one bill Congress never fails to pass. Situations like this one where you do something with a noble intent and it just gets screwed up and manipulated are an unfortunate side effect of a system which is easy to manipulate.

2.) The free market is not all about small businesses and little guys striving for the American Dream. Quite often, the ugly face of the free market is a greedy developer screwing over little guys to try and make a bargeload of cash. This is repeated over and over, and I really don't think it's any secret, to anyone. So when conservatives try to close their eyes to this crap, it just makes me depressed. And disgusted.

This is not to say I'm all down on capitalism. I like capitalism. I like owning shit, and I like the fact that people are willing to make goods I want so I can buy them with the sweat of my labors (or better still, the sweat of my wits). But capitalism's only saving grace is that it is better than communism...and when you look at what THAT produced, that's really not saying much.

The problem is not too much government regulation (well, it kind of is)...the main problem is too much regulation that simply doesn't do anything, and not enough regulation to solve the gaping holes in the system. Ones like, I don't know, allowing real estate speculators to entirely ruin the whole point of a massive housing auction.
Have people no shame?

My darling wife brought to my attention the sad plight of John T. Unger. Mr. Unger is a talented artist who, from the information on his site, has built a successful business out of almost literally nothing. He is also, to my great delight, not a copyright nazi...he is a guy who is getting genuinely shafted by a prize douchebag, one Rick Wittrig. I urge you to go to Mr. Unger's site and read the story...he is very up-front about everything, and I think he is clearly in the right. The sad part is that being in the right was not enough...he has spent $50,000 trying to prove something incredibly basic and obvious: that the things he makes are art, and that his copyright is valid.

Let me make this clear: he is not really complaining that his copyright is being infringed. He doesn't like that, and he asked Wittrig to stop. But he didn't file a suit. He isn't trying to get Wittrig shut down. No, instead, what is happening that can only happen in our incredibly fucked up legal system: the person who stole his ideas is suing HIM in an attempt to bankrupt him. Wittrig's suit (which you can read on Unger's site, btw, in it's entirety) claims the following:

1.) Unger's fire bowls (and Wittrig's copies of them) are not art; they are functional items.
2.) Because Unger copyrighted them as art, the copyrights are invalid.
3.) Because Unger made a bunch of claims (all true, btw), Wittrig has suffered financial harm.
4.) Wittrig wants Unger's copyrights revoked, AND wants Unger to have to pay him restitutionary damages, punative damages, and legal costs.

Wittrig's lawsuit is, on it's face, an enormous pile of shit. This is because it hinges on a key fact: that the fire bowls are not "art". This despite the fact that Wittrig refers to himself constantly as an artist, to the bowls he produces as works of art, that he sells them at art fairs and art shows, and that his company is in fact named "Fire Pit Art". Seriously, what kind of wacky tobaccy is he burning in those fire bowls?

But oh, what's this? In the short time since I learned of this case (maybe a week?) all the previous references I saw about Wittrig using the terms "art" and "artist" to refer to himself and his bowls have mysteriously vanished from the interwebz. Damn, that is some quick PR work, Mr. Wittrig. Instead of talking about how he learned "the art of metalworking" in the small Mennonite village in Illinois where he was raised, his bio now tells the same homey story without once using the term "art".

Somehow I doubt he learned about theft, lying, and legal blackmail from the Mennonites.

Now, regarding the intellectual property ramifications of this case? I could care less. If Unger had written a sob story about how somebody was copying his bowls and cheating him out of a hard-earned living, I would have much less (perhaps zero) sympathy for him. Because I've seen his bowls, and I've seen Wittrig's bowls, and they all fall into two categories:
1.) Designs so simple they cannot (IMO) be copyrighted. I'm sorry, you can't take a bowl with 3 points and call that an original piece of art. If that's an art, I can carve a fucking tetrahedron out of wood and copyright that and put all the dice manufacturers out of business.
2.) Designs so intricate that Wittrig cannot effectively rip them off. Seriously, compared Wittrig's flame bowl with Unger's flame bowl. Wittrig's looks like a piece of shit. If people want to buy the crappy wal-mart version, I say let them.

No, for me the bigger issue in this is that a jerkass is trying to use the complete trainwreck of a legal system that we have in this country to screw over a little guy. That makes me mad. And that should not be allowed to stand.

You can donate to Unger, or you can just talk about this on your own blogs. One thing I love about the internet is the rapid dissemination of information. Viva the First Amendment.
For those who haven't heard, here's the lowdown on The Whitten Inn incident. Long story short...guy buys a hotel in Taos, New Mexico, and imposes a couple of rules on his staff. 1.) They aren't to speak Spanish when he's around, only english. 2.) Their names are to be "anglicized"...so Marcos becomes "Mark", Jose becomes "Joe", and so on.

Let me repeat: this is in New Mexico. Yes. Exactly.

My take? I think Larry Whitten is an insensitive tool. Yes, I think what he did was racist...the name thing, not the "speak english" thing (I actually feel he was all right on that score; it's common courtesy to your employer to use the language he's familiar with when he's around. I don't think that was an excessive hardship). I support the people protesting and boycotting him, and I think when he is driven out of town it will be his just desserts. In fact, while I know it's not Christian of me, I had to laugh a little when I heard he's basically trying to cut and run and forget this whole thing ever happened.

That said, I do NOT support legal action against him. I don't think he did anything illegal...I think he was just being a dick. There is no law against being a dick, and there shouldn't be. He didn't ask the workers to do anything harmful or in violation of their rights; it was just offensive, and they have a right not to work under those conditions. But their option was to quit, not to sue. You do not have a right to not be offended by your boss, unless the offense was gross and harmful, which I do not believe this was. And I think this was a great example of people using grassroots civil force to bring about change without having to resort to the legal system.

This was an interesting story to me for a couple reasons. First, it was nice to see a guy pulling some fairly common "soft racist" stuff (not about overt hating, but clearly about trying to "whitewash" a hotel's image...hell, trying to whitewash his employees, for pete's sake) and actually getting called on it. Because these workers are entirely right: there is nothing unprofessional or off-putting about an employee having a hispanic name. Making them change their names had no effect except (perhaps) to cater to xenophobes who think "latino" = "poor and dirty and illegal". Second, when the guy gets all butthurt and says "What kind of fool or idiot or poor businessman would I be to orchestrate this whole crazy thing that's costed me a lot of time, money and aggravation?", I can't help but be reminded of Jen's constant talking about Hollywood and how they repeatedly do this exact same thing...do something that is NOT in their best interest, because they think they know better than everybody else. Yes, Mr. Whitten, I DO think you're a bit of a fool and an idiot...for not even bothering to notice the kind of time, money, and aggravation this could cost you before you went blithely ahead and started making your rules.

Interesting side note: Bob & Mark, the local morning show, were discussing this. They took Whitten's side, which irks me a bit. But then a guy called in supporting Whitten, who was Filipino, and Bob and Mark did some gloating that even minorities don't see the big deal about this (btw: the Filipino gentleman took my stance: speak english okay, change your name NOT okay). They asked the caller his name, and he told them "Rex". They actually responded "what's your real name?".

If I could have reached through the radio and punched them, I would have. That IS his real name, you ignorant fuck! Because he's Filipino, you think he needs to have a suitably Asian name? What the hell is wrong with you? God, that made me mad in a way the rest of it didn't.
I've decided I'm going to bite the bullet and get a frigging iPod. It's like everybody has the damn things these days, and Casey's is very handy...but while we enjoy a lot of the same music, and there's very little she likes that I don't...there IS some music I like that she doesn't really care for. Country music, to be specific. And the digital music age has given me an excellent opportunity to go dig up all the old country tunes that I really liked, but didn't want to buy an entire album to get.

Today's Main Story:

This is wrong, and everyone should know it.Collapse )

Other stories:

Remember I was talking about not trusting cops? Yeah, here's part of why.Collapse )

A vote for gun control is a vote for Thunderdome.Collapse )

Song Lyrics:

Baby I still don't understand
The distance between a woman and a man
So tell me how far it is,
And how you can love like this
'Cause I'm not sure I can...

When we don't talk
When we don't touch
When it doesn't feel like we're even in love...
It matters to me...
And I don't know what to say
Don't know what to do
Don't know if it really even matters to you...
How can I make you see
It matters to me...

--Faith Hill, "It Matters To Me"